Name: Professor Paws
Occupation: Rapper, producer
Current release: Professor Paw's "To the Bag" is out now and available from all major platforms.
Recommendations: I’m really in to H.E.R’s music these days so would say it’s a good idea to listen to this song.
I also think everyone should listen to Lauryn Hill’s cover of ‘A change is gonna come’.
If you enjoyed this interview with Professor Paws, find out more about his music and stay up to date with his work on Facebook, Instagram and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started producing when I was in secondary school (high school for some) and my early influences included Timbaland, Michael Jackson, Neptunes and Paul Epworth.
I started writing a couple years ago by chance. I was wanting to learn ‘how’ to mix and didn’t have enough vocals to mix so started vocalling my beats and covers. After I did that, I didn’t want to stop! My early influences included Michael Jackson, Bill Withers, Gill Scott, Young Jeezy and many more.
I’ve always loved music as my mum used to sing and there was always music playing around the house or within my families houses.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I began learning from doing covers of recent and favourite songs. I also slightly emulated Michael Jackson.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My identity always influences my music as I have to be honest and real with who I am. When I put something down in music it always represents my reality.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main creative challenge was knowing when to switch from being a producer to being an artist while making music. I now have learned to play both roles but sometimes get caught in spending loads of time on production over writing but that’s life!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started in Reason as a music production software, then moved to Logic and haven’t moved away since. I started with and mostly play piano but play guitar sometimes. It depends how I am feeling. My main changes in instruments always tend to be software instruments, I look for software instruments that inspire me.
I also like to get new hardware gear as it makes me feel like I am progressing in terms of getting better and inspires me to make new music.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
The biggest change for me over time is the accessibility to high-end studio equipment at afforable prices. This change/progression in technology has really helped not to spend loads to get good quality and has changed the outcome of my music!
A key one is Universal Audio as you can emulate pre-amps whilst recording which is sick!
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I like to make the full track and leave a gap for an artist so there is weight behind my ideas. I’m working on getting better at explaining my creative needs to engineers, producers and artists so that I can be a better collaborator. For now, my main go-to is to create the track/tracks, then send them over.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other – do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My days aren’t very structured to be honest, I just try to get things done! Morning, I’ll have my favourite breakfast then it’s all work hard from there. Personal life generally blends because of the hours I spend on music every day/week.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
The biggest breakthrough for me was the time I started writing. When I got on the mic and liked what I heard for the very first time, it opened my mind to many different possibilities and it’s hard to replicate that feeling again.
Generally speaking, I hate my talking voice so when I discovered I liked my singing and rapping, that felt very good! From that point onwards, I just worked very hard on getting better and refused to release a single song until I reached a standard which I thought was great! I liked to drown my voice in reverb as it sounds nice that way and I look forward to experimenting more that way.
My main motivation behind music is to become great and inspire the masses, so my benchmark is very high. I’m constantly comparing myself against the greats!
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
My mind is most creative after living through a new experience, so that’s always the most ideal way for me to create – live then make music. The challenge in that is, living distracts me from music - so I have to find a good balance.
Living to me means to see new things and meet new people so I am gaining a better understanding of the world around me. I try to travel when I can and be social when I’m feeling introverted to sustain the ‘living’.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music was one of the most important things that got me through losing my mum from cancer so I would say it’s helped to heal me a lot over time!
There have been times where music has damaged me as I’ve looked too much at what other artists are doing and been distracted from my own purpose.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Personally, I hate sounding like someone else and prefer to innovate over copy! As an artist, it’s hard to avoid anyone copying what you make as your art is meant to inspire but there are instances where people take things too far and outright copy, which happens a lot in the charts.
Either way, I’m not too strongly opinionated as I don’t like to dwell on things I can’t control. If someone's copying or appropriating, the only thing I can do is focus on myself and my music!
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses – and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Personally I love the idea and feeling of music matching what I am seeing. I love being in Ghana and hearing Afrobeats, the fact that I can see the country, feel the heat, taste the food and meanwhile hear the music which originates from there is special - it enhances my feeling for the music.
Overall, I strongly agree that our hearing senses are connected.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach to art, is to be honest in my music so it’s a reflection of me and everyday life. As long as I’m honest, I’m happy.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I’m not sure what music can express about death but I know it can give you a sense of peace, unsettle you or make you take different actions. So in my opinion, it can show you about different sides of life.